Subject to the possible premise-killing caveat that last night was the best game the Steelers' defense has played in over a year, let's explore the following premise: the Steelers' defense could have and should have won the game. Joe Flacco was ripe for a strip-sack all night. He was just a tall, over-confident, unibrowed statue standing in the pocket, unable to complete a pass downfield, just begging to have the ball swiped from him. Unfortunately, it's not 2009.
|The Good Ol' Days|
|Actual game photo of James Harrison from last night|
|The standard is the standard.|
So let's talk about Byron Leftwich after the jump...
|Pro Bowl grimace.|
Where was Charlie Batch last night? We understand that Byron Leftwich is a warrior who graduated from the Ben Roethlisberger School of Histrionic Leadership, but he's also a man who fell untouched onto the grass, injured his ribs, and threw fielding practice for the rest of the game. And he hasn't won a start since 2006. Charlie Batch is fragile, but he wins games. With word coming out this afternoon that Leftwich has broken ribs and is out for the game against Cleveland, it's time to invest in Charlie Batch. Because if history has proven anything, it's that investing with Charlie Batch is a great decision.
- During halftime the Steelers celebrated their 80 year anniversary by honoring team alumni. They should have kept Troy Polamalu out there just in case.
- There were a few moments in the 4th quarter of the game that really crystallized what needs to happen this offseason: 1) Rashard Mendenhall failing to realize he needed to get out of bounds with less than two minutes to go in the game and no timeouts; 2) James Harrison celebrating his first sack - nay, his first discernible play - of the game, apparently not realizing an incomplete pass would have actually been far better under the circumstances; and 3) Mike Wallace making no effort to help his QB by coming back to the ball to scoop up that short-armed 2nd and 11 pass.
All of these guys should be gone this spring.
- Mendenhall because Dwyer is a better runner, plain and simple (we would have run him twice when the Steelers had 3rd and short from the 5, down 6 in the 4th quarter).
- Harrison because he makes a fortune, isn't good anymore, and scares women and children. He's entered the 2011-Alexi-Kovalev phase of his career where he gets tired in the middle of the play, sits down, and hopes for the best.
- Mike Wallace because it would be really exhausting having to talk after every game about all the plays our $10 million man left on the field.
On the positive side of things...
- Keenan Lewis is a Pro Bowl player. Maybe not this year, but it's coming.
- We've called out the front 7 all season for what we diagnosed as Perpetual Inability To Stop Anyone Disorder (PITSAD). Last night, save for the inability to get sacks when the secondary was covering better than ever, they looked like the old Steelers, holding Baltimore to 47 yards on 23 carries.
- The Ravens are 8-2, but they aren't scaring anyone and probably won't maintain their current spot as the #2 seed. The Patriots are in their typical November run-up-the-score mode, so 13-3 is hardly out of the question for them. Peyton Manning is doing the same thing that Phil Rivers is doing every week except the exact opposite: he's getting better. The Ravens, on the other hand, have at least 4 lose-able games (PIT, DEN, NYG, CIN), and Joe Flacco is worse on the road than Amanda Bynes.
- From the Steelers' perspective, this loss is devastating in the division race but likely won't have much impact on the wild-card race. As we discussed on our podcast live from Ben's hospital room, 9-7 should be good enough to get at least the final wild-card spot, and maybe even the #5 seed. Right now, the Steelers and Colts are both 6-4 and the Bengals are hanging around at 5-5. Everyone else is horrible. If all the Steelers do over the last 6 games is beat the Browns twice and win at home against Cincy, 9-7 with the tiebreaker over the Bengals should suffice.
And assuming 9-7 would suffice, and assuming Big Ben comes back, there's no question which division leader we'd like to see in Round 1.